Government, Opposition Trade Barbs in Rajya Sabha over AgustaWestland Deal

Manohar Parrikar and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu rejected the opposition’s demand for a Supreme Court-monitored probe.

Representational image. Credit: PTI

Representational image. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: Targeting the previous UPA regime over the controversial AgustaWestland deal, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on May 4 said the ongoing probe will focus on those named in the Italian court judgement even as he suggested the role of an “invisible hand” in preventing a proper investigation earlier.

Parrikar, along with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu, rejected the opposition’s demand for a Supreme Court-monitored probe. The Congress staged a walkout in protest.

Replying to a debate in Rajya Sabha on the controversy surrounding the 3,600 crore rupees deal for 12 VVIP helicopters, Parrikar said there was “relentless push” by the UPA to go in for the AgustaWestland choppers.

Narrating the sequence of events related to the deal amid repeated disruptions, Parrikar said the CBI had registered a case on March 12, 2013 but it did not bother to forward a copy of the FIR to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for nine months. He alleged that the ED did not act on the FIR till July 2014.

“It appears an invisible hand was guiding action or inaction of the CBI and the ED,” the minister said.

Noting that a probe was already underway, he said, the “inquiry will focus on roles of those named in the judgement of Italian court.. Government will leave no stone unturned in bringing to justice those involved in the scam”.

He said the CBI had already done a lot of investigation and was currently on the money trail to track down the bribe money.

I will quit public life and Rajya Sabha, says Ahmad Patel

Meanwhile, under attack for his name being dragged in the AgustaWestland controversy, Congress leader Ahmed Patel pressed for a thorough probe into the deal, declaring that he will quit the Rajya Sabha as well as public life if any allegation against him was proved.

Patel, the political secretary to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, said the “propaganda” against him was due to baseless allegations to defame his party and its leaders.

“If anyone proves any wrongdoing by me, I will quit public life and Rajya Sabha. There should be a thorough investigation carried out into this deal and guilty should be punished. Bring the truth out… I repeat again, if you can find an iota of truth against me, I will quit public life and resign from this house,” he said in the Rajya Sabha while participating in the debate on the chopper controversy.

Questioning those who made the allegations against him, Patel asked, “What about people who are tarnishing the reputation of people by presenting wrong facts and baseless allegations? This is an attempt to defame Congress and its leaders.”

Patel’s name was dragged into the controversy because of an initial ‘AP’ reportedly found in the documents recovered in connection with probe by the Italian authorities.

Patel claimed false “propaganda” was being carried out to tarnish the reputation of people on the basis of baseless charges.

“My name has appeared four times in the Italian court judgement. But has any leader been indicted or anyone painted as accused?” he asked.

He said he has been in public life for so many years but has never crossed its limits and that the CAG report should not be used as a tool for political mudslinging.

“I have not crossed any limits of public life. This is not my first agni-pareeksha (trial by fire),” he said.

He quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who as chief minister of Gujarat had said, “CAG report should not be used as a tool for political bickering”.